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  • The Road to Mini Meet

    After nearly a week on the road, I think I've sorted out my netbook and wi-fi problems. Hopefully, I can keep these reports and photos coming.

    Chuck, Jerry and I are in Kankakee, Ill., tonight. It's been an interesting trip, at times exciting and at others boring, but I have some time tonight to share a few photos from our travels so far.



    We left Friday morning, setting out over Chinook Pass and driving into Eastern Washington past Yakima and the Hanford Reservation. Here we're stopped on the other side of the Columbia (that's the Vernita Bridge in the background). This is where I jammed my ignition switch and we lost about 30 minutes while I tore down my steering column to fix it,



    Highways 261 and 12 between Kahlotus and Lewiston were loopy and sweeping and lots of fun. We stopped for a break at Lyons Ferry on the Snake.



    After spending the night in Lewiston, Idaho, we headed for Montana. But before jumping on Highway 12, we took a run up the old Lewiston Grade, now called the Spiral Highway. I drove it many times in the 60s and 70s, but it was an entirely different experience in a Mini. Google it or search for it on YouTube. It's an incredible collection of heart-stopping switchbacks. I shot some photos from above, but they don't do the hill justice. Instead, here's a shot of Chuck catching his breath at the top.



    Highway 12 from Lewiston to Missoula was another unearthly drive. It's something like 100 miles of twisting, contorting pavement paralleling the Clearwater River. For most of those miles, we were the only ones on the road. Absolutely beautiful.

    More in a minute.

    Dan
    Dan

    "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -- George Harrison

  • #2


    This sign is on Hwy 12, more than 20 miles up the valley. When we left the river behind, we climbed mile-high Lolo Pass. I wasn't paying attention, I guess, because I overheated the pickup on the way up and we lost more time waiting for it to cool down. My "Girlfriend" (what we're calling my GPS unit) found us some great back roads to Helena, where we stopped for the night.



    A lot of Montana is like the photo above, of course, but east of the little town of Townsend, Girlfriend found us a creek valley where the road bobbed and weaved for miles through a narrow canyon. A semi driver here was nice enough tp pull his rig over when he saw us in his mirrors. Even when the canyon and the forests opened up and the Big Sky began, many of the roads were sweepy and scenic.

    We spent our third night in Hardin, Mont. The relatively short drive from Helena gave us some time to vist the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, which is just down the road from Hardin.



    Day Four's drive took us through the Custer National Forest and into Wyoming. I have to admit it was something of a religious experience for me when we rounded a corner and got our first view of Devil's Tower. The Close Encounters star is breathtaking, to say the least. A crowd of people gathered when we parked at the Devil's Tower entrance; I think a lot of them had their own Mini religious experience that day.



    More in a minute.

    Dan
    Dan

    "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -- George Harrison

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    • #3
      Thanks for posting! Looking forward to more.

      Comment


      • #4
        The roads around Devil's Tower were great fun, but we ultimately had to submit to our first freeway driving of the trip. We jumped on I-90 to get to Spearfish, S.Dak.

        When we pulled in to Spearfish, we were followed to our hotel by a young guy in a Miata. As you can imagine, they don't see a lot of Minis in South Dakota. Young Miata guy was a big VeeDub fan who knew all about Minis and was ecstatic over our cars. He got a ride in Jerry's TIC for his trouble and, as a reporter for the Black Hills Pioneer, snapped a few photos of the cars for a Photo of the Day for the newspaper.

        Leaving Spearfish the next morning, we traveled to Sturgis, turned south and east and found miles of unbelievable twisties through the rocks and pine forests around Deadwood and beyond.





        Eventually, we drove through Badlands National Park, stopping at Cowboy Corner (top photo) for water -- and to provide answers about the cars for the folks around the gas pumps.



        On our way to a night in Pickstown, S.Dak., we made a side trip into Nebraska so I could capture another state for the Moss Motoring Challenge.



        Wednesday morning, we stopped in Tabor and Yankton before leaving South Dakota. Jerry needed a little drink of his Czech heritage, and the southeastern part of the state was happy to oblige him.

        That night, we stayed in Marshalltown, Iowa. Iowa had some nice driving roads for us, but also a lot of straight, featureless (if you don't count the bucking-bronco pavement joints as features) ribbons of cement.

        So today we drove to Kankakee. Tomorrow we'll put Iowa and Indiana behind us and we'll land at Mid-Ohio for the races. I'll try to keep this thread up to date from time to time. Stay tuned.

        Dan
        Dan

        "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -- George Harrison

        Comment


        • #5
          Great posts Dan. Safe travels to you guys..

          Comment


          • #6
            To really celebrate Jerry's Czech heritage stop in Omaha and have a meal at the Bohemian Cafe.

            Great pictures and it looks like your having a good time.

            Kelley
            If you can afford the car, you can afford the manual...

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks for the tip, Kelley. But I'm not sure we want to feed Jerry's heritage any more than we already have. The guy gets pretty emotional. One more knediky might take him over the edge.

              Today it was states with a lot of vowels. We drove from Iowa through Indiana and into Ohio.



              Girlfriend, my GPS unit, has been guiding us to some incredible roads on this trip, and today was no exception. Today she took us on an hour-long leg through a farming community that was posted for local traffic only. That meant no big trucks, relatively low speeds and a semi-intimate look at an Indiana agricultural neighborhood. That might sound dumb, but I thought it was sort of refreshing.

              When we stopped to snap this photo, an old guy in a house out of the picture on the right was sure we were testing some new kind of electric cars.



              We finally arrived at Mid-Ohio around 6. This Sprint kind of jumped out at us as we walked through the paddock area.



              Approaching the track, we quickly found Greg Birch, Ed Sauer and Bill Wecker. I caught Greg as the Mini Challenge cars were being arranged for a group photo.



              I couldn't quite hear the announcer, but I thought he said these cars were being held out of the event because it had been determined that they'd suffered traumatic accidents on the assembly line and had become possessed by supernatural forces that had caused them to kill plant workers and they'd couldn't stop killing people and their nerdy owners became withdrawn and cynical and bullies who tormented them start dying and ... at least I think that's what he said.

              Racing tomorrow. I'll have more photos then.

              Dan
              Dan

              "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -- George Harrison

              Comment


              • #8
                All five ran Daytona in 1967 with one of them (I believe #51) being the class winner.
                The more I know about Minis, the more I know I don't know about Minis.

                Comment


                • #9
                  What Dan has forgotten to mention is that he smashed Jerry's previous record by going 38 miles before remembering to turn off his turn signal.
                  The more I know about Minis, the more I know I don't know about Minis.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Just checked. We've covered very close to 3,000 miles so far, with more than that to go.
                    The more I know about Minis, the more I know I don't know about Minis.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      These dudes show up.

                      I'm here pitting for my mini mentor and these dudes show up.



                      I hope I can find them tomorrow.

                      Greg

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Looking good guys! Much enjoying the travelogue.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          After all the photo foofaraw on Friday, Chuck, Jerry and I went to the paddock area for the BBQ dinner before heading to the motel. We returned to the track Saturday morning for practice sessions and a few races. The Minis were out for practice/qualifying in the a.m. and p.m.



                          Mid-Ohio is a beautiful course, with plenty of great spectator areas and well-kept.





                          There was a little bit of everything out there in the non-Mini classes.



                          But the LBCs, of course, were the most fun to watch.

                          Dan
                          Dan

                          "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -- George Harrison

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            On Sunday, we arrived at the track early and set out our chairs where we could watch Turns 4, 5 and 6. We watched a couple of class races and soldiered through a 90-minute enduro. The crowd gradually built up, and the Minis were flagged off for the Can-Am Mini Challenge around 11:30.



                            Here's a look at the pace car taking the pack around to the green flag. The first racer is Joe Huffaker's funny car. Behind him is the Fortech Mini and 47 eager other equally eager drivers. Fourth car in the lineup (outside of the corner with the black stripe) is Nick Swift in a relatively conventional Mini.



                            More of the pace lap.



                            More of the pace lap.



                            It actually took me seven shots to capture the entire field.

                            Dan
                            Dan

                            "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -- George Harrison

                            Comment


                            • #15


                              When the flag fell, Huffaker held the lead, but everyone was surprised and delighted when Nick Swift the Giant Killer leapt into second place. I'm sure everyone was pulling for him, but Huffaker was just too fast to be caught. The Fortech car retired early, so Swift diced with a couple of other Minis, I think.



                              Huffaker took the checkered flag and the crowd waved and shouted for all the Minis as they completed their cool-down laps.

                              We booked for Indiana. We spent the night in Auburn. We arrived too late to get into the Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg Museum, but I drove over there to check out the old Auburn factory.



                              This morning, we dodged Amish buggies and found some good country roads, stopping at Jerryville on our way to Michigan.



                              Not too far into Michigan, we came across a VFW post that had an amazing display of military vehicles. Most impressive, I think, was this mounted Huey helicopter like those Jerry flew for many years.

                              We're in Manistee, Mich., tonight. The weather we've been outrunning for days finally caught us here. There was thunder, lightning and some serious rainfall, but fortunately no hail. Tomorrow, we'll continue north to cross the Mackinac Bridge to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. There we'll make a sweeping U-turn and drop down the western shores of Lake Michigan. We'll be in Milwaukee Wednesday.

                              More later.

                              Dan
                              Dan

                              "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -- George Harrison

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